Commentary: It’s up to you and me to create culture

By Michael Molinaro, DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

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Last year, my cousin Sarah was torn on where to start her career. While applying for jobs in finance and business, she suddenly realized that her biggest concern wasn’t what she did, but where she worked. She talked to me about federal employment and to my brother, who works for a well-known banking firm, about the corporate world. She asked about pay and benefits — the normal stuff — but then she started asking about something that matters just as much, especially to those from her generation: culture.

How do you figure out the culture of a company you’ve never worked for? As Sarah tried to evaluate company cultures, she kept asking the same question: “How is this workplace different from all other workplaces?”

After collecting stories from the both of us, as well as other friends, members of her church and people at different levels within their respective organizations, Sarah noticed they touched on common themes. The same kinds of stories kept surfacing in everybody she talked to. It was comforting yet confusing: If all companies have the same values, are any of them truly unique?

People in their 20s and 30s seek work cultures that offer them a chance to make an immediate impact and get their ideas and opinions heard, while providing opportunities for leadership, continuous learning and personal and professional development. They also expect a diversity of viewpoints and experiences that go far beyond traditional efforts by organizations to make workplaces more equitable to people of different races, genders and ethnicities.

At a basic level, culture is the way people work together. It’s the rules — often unspoken — on what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior; the expectations people have about managing others and being managed; and the values employees are supposed to embody every day. The reason this matters so much is that people — not institutions and not checkbooks — solve problems.

The upcoming Denison Survey provides employees of DLA a bona fide opportunity to stand out from many organizations around the country. Essentially, everyone from the commander to the newest employee is given the keys to the kingdom, as your survey inputs are used to initiate changes designed to improve Land and Maritime’s work environment and cultural sensitivity’s to ultimately ensure our mission success.

DLA is committed to improving its culture, and the agency uses the Denison Culture Survey as a way to assess and improve that culture. Wider employee participation provides more detailed and specific data for leadership to use in improving work environments.

The most successful organizations make conscientious efforts to attract, retain and develop team members capable of guiding large-scale change to advance the common good. By the same token, an organization’s culture can either attract or repel the people with that talent.

There is no question that DLA across the enterprise needs to compete for the best talent. But today’s top graduates don’t want to work at places that use opaque communication styles or are slow to adapt. But when it comes to generating results, experience and character are what count. We all have a role to play in shaping DLA Land and Maritime’s culture.

So, if you want to work toward building a unique culture that talented people like Sarah and others would be proud members of, take the survey. It runs March 29-April 29. Let’s help DLA Land and Maritime build upon its long-term legacy and continue to be a pioneer, rather than a just another follower.